“I know y’all think this is like some corporate shit,” Drake called out on Saturday night, on stage at the pop-up Time Warner Cable Studios in New York’s meatpacking district. He was the cherry on top of a week of parties held in the “interactive” space, tricked out with two bars and floor-to-ceiling screens. On the eve of the Super Bowl, this final fête—presented by newly launched Time Warner partner network REVOLT—drew a big-name crowd. Paul McCartney and Kevin Costner, a sweater tied around his neck, got Drake’s I-can-do-this-all-night best: an hour-long set that combined highlights from his just-wrapped arena tour with new verses (“Trophies,” “We Made It,” “Mine,”) and glimpses of the laptop DJ set he’s recently pulled out at clubs. Young Thug’s splashy “Danny Glover” was played twice by Drake’s DJ Future the Prince over the course of the night. Who else could get a song like that in front of a Beatle?
Earlier in the night, Hot 97 DJs Camilo and Funk Flex spun DJ Mustard, Joan Jett and “Drunk in Love.” The room had the feel of a dream Bar Mitzvah party, elegant and approachable in equal measure. Time Warner staffers handed out bites of pizza and light-up bracelets. A preteen walking around with his mom, maybe a television executive, wore a Seahawks hat. Perez Hilton stood by the self-serve candy buffet, watching the founders of Rap Genius introduce themselves to Kendall Jenner. Later, Jenner would settle down in the high bleachers of the VIP section, taking selfies with a friend. Nearby, Mary J. Blige, also out with a girl friend, danced to “Teach Me How to Dougie” from her chair.
Onstage, Drake pulled out his typical crowd-pleasing tricks. He brought out shots for the front row and paid special attention to one crew of 30-something women, taking their outstretched hands into his own. Following a visit to James Turrell’s LACMA retrospective, he flashed Turrell’s signature purples, greens and blues across three panoramic screens, a quick-blinking update of his tour backdrops. Relatively short on time, he forwent the half-hour of banter with the audience he usually dazzles with at large shows, focusing instead on rapping precisely. In many of the pictures taken Saturday, he’s staring at the floor, wrapped up in nailing a verse. At the close of the evening, when joined by Diddy—REVOLT’s owner and face—and other rappers, he stood to the side, rapping along as others did their verses, looking somewhat confused at how to behave outside the limelight. In a poll offered up by Billboard today, Drake is not even a contender for next year’s hypothetical Super Bowl performer, but he should be.
New York mascot French Montana teetered on the stage’s wings throughout the evening, beaming in a hooded, chinchilla-dust fur. He’d been arrested the night before at another Super Bowl party, by cops who waited for him and rappers Chinx Drugz and Jadakiss outside a Times Square club, to address outstanding warrants. (“All these corporations want rappers to shine at their #SuperBowl parties, but the #hiphop cops are out tying everyone up,” observed Hot 97 host Miss Info.) Montana smiled as he was cuffed on Friday, and he cheesed harder on Saturday as he sang “loud and dumb” single “Ain’t Worried Bout Nothin” alongside Diddy and Bun B, who slung his arm around Drake like a proud uncle. (Wale also appeared, dancing in a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt.)
After Diddy took the stage to perform New York standards “All About the Benjamins” and “More Money More Problems,” Drake toasted him, saying, “This is is the most important, influential man that our genre has. Billionaires will talk to him.” In response, Diddy was appropriately all-business. “We on channel 162 on Time Warner!” he shouted about REVOLT. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” The network, broadcasting since October of last year, is not rated by Nielsen and has not disclosed its viewership stats as its profile has grown: Drake and Diddy appeared together on its behalf in a Time Warner ad during last night’s Super Bowl. But whatever inroads Diddy has already made at the herculean task of drawing young people back to their televisions, this celebration was full of flags pointing to his already successful ventures elsewhere. Guests sipped Ciroc and AquaHydrate, a “high performance” water Diddy launched with Mark Wahlberg last year. I showed up on Saturday with a brutal hangover. After Drake and two bottles of the water, I left on a cloud.